Friday’s top NHL players
During the Friday NHL action, Kevin Fiala, Kirill Kaprizov, and the Wild team overall set some significant records.
Kaprizov (one goal, three assists) became the first Wild player to score 100 points in a single season. He finished the night with 45 goals and 56 assists, generating 101 points in 77 games.
With five assists, Kevin Fiala set a single-game Wild franchise record for helpers.
The Wild set some new franchise records as a team with 50 wins and 107 standings points. They could set a point streak record soon, too, as their active 13-game point streak ties a Wild franchise record.
For just about every level of NHL fan, Friday presented just another example of Kirill Kaprizov being a clear superstar.
It’s probably worth noticing that Kevin Fiala hovers somewhere between star and superstar, too.
Here and there, we’ve heard rumors about the Wild possibly needing to trade Fiala. Part of that could be a numbers game: the cap-strapped Wild will get hit with the Ryan Suter/Zach Parise buyouts as pending RFA Fiala readies for a raise.
If at all possible, the Wild should make other omissions (painful or not) to keep Fiala instead.
It may not be the feel-good story of the 2021-22 season, but credit’s where credit’s due. Evander Kane has been very productive with the Edmonton Oilers. He helped the Oilers clinch an NHL playoff berth on Friday.
If you only could pick one top NHL star from Friday, it would be a real debate between Kane, McDavid, Kaprizov, and Fiala. In the case of Evander Kane, he generated a hat trick and an assist. McDavid was close behind, producing three assists.
While Fiala generated five points, Kane faced tougher competition in the Avalanche. So it may come down to what you weigh more or less. Through 38 games, Evander Kane’s generated 32 points (17G, 15A).
When it comes to the next Evander Kane contract, I’d advise the Oilers and/or other suitors to note that he’s ridden shotgun very often alongside Connor McDavid. We’ve seen the Oilers get lured into risky investments in players propped up at least some extent by McDavid before, such as the ill-fated Zack Kassian extension.
Yes, Evander Kane has produced without McDavid, and he’s a clear first-liner where Kassian was not. Still, McDavid’s inevitable boost to Kane’s production and Kane’s long list of on-and-off-ice incidents should at least give future suitors some pause if there ends up being a bidding way.
So, there are circumstances for future “buyer beware” scenarios in free agency.
But for the Oilers in a truncated season? If production is the only thing that matters to the Oilers, then this has been a success.
Friday NHL highlights
With a mere four NHL games on the docket for Friday, why not watch highlights for them all?
Watch Evander Kane rack up that hat trick as the Oilers notched an impressive win over the Avalanche:
Kaprizov, Fiala, and the Wild set some records and leashed the Kraken:
You may gain more entertainment reading about possible mixed messages from the Blue Jackets’ 2021-22 season, but here’s their game against the Senators:
Finally, the Coyotes avoided getting blown out in their loss to the Capitals:
Friday NHL Takeaways
Hockey world remembers Guy Lafleur
Sad news surfaced for the hockey world on Friday: Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur died at age 70.
Many in the hockey world mourned Guy Lafleur’s passing.
Canadiens owner Geoff Molson shared his condolences.
Wayne Gretzky mourned losing Guy Lafleur and Mike Bossy in such quick succession.
Mario Lemieux and the Penguins evoked a great photo in remembering Guy Lafleur:
Fans shared memories of Guy Lafleur in this thread from Marc Dumont:
The Canadiens shared a similar collection of Guy Lafleur fan memories here.
Flames coach Darryl Sutter shared fond memories of facing Guy Lafleur during a high-scoring opening night.
For all the players who’ve been great, there are some who were transcendent. Clearly, Guy Lafleur was one of those transcendent players.
In Ken Dryden’s classic book “The Game,” he noted that for all the big ovations during those dynastic years, Canadiens fans simply celebrated Guy Lafleur most of all.
Finally, a nice video tribute to Guy Lafleur from the NHL:
Whatever happens with Robin Lehner and the Golden Knights, this got ugly pretty fast
To put things mildly, things haven’t gone as planned for the Golden Knights. That includes in net.
Even if the Golden Knights barely squeeze into the playoffs — possible, but less and less likely — this will have been a messy misadventure. Injuries have been a story for much of the season, and Robin Lehner has not been immune.
Does Robin Lehner need season-ending surgery, or not? Peter DeBoer at least cast some doubt on that.
Then again, this is the same Peter DeBoer who … didn’t exactly stick up for Robin Lehner after a recent loss.
Really, there were rumors about Robin Lehner’s injuries possibly ending his season early at least a month ago. Plausibly, Lehner’s been playing hurt (or at least at “not 100-percent”) for the Golden Knights; you’d think that would buy a little leeway.
It’s an all-around strange situation.
We’ve already wondered what might happen if the Golden Knights miss the playoffs, and that was before Robin Lehner’s injury situation truly became a source of drama. At best, it’s something you at least raise an eyebrow about.
At some point, making expensive, dramatic player changes every year seems like a losing proposition. Shouldn’t that borderline-mercenary attitude about waving goodbye to fan favorites like Marc-Andre Fleury and Nate Schmidt extend to a management team that’s been far from perfect?
Really, the Golden Knights may be best served to take a breath and not overreact or overthink things — for once. But if changes need to be made, perhaps they should come behind the bench, or among those wearing suits.
Lightning to visit White House in celebration of Stanley Cup victories
A global pandemic can put things in perspective. (Maybe not as much as some of us would like, but still.) Sometimes you come to realize that traditions and common practices don’t need to last forever just because they were once fixtures.
Honestly, that’s generally how I view the “Stanley Cup winner visits the White House for a photo-op” routine. That goes for all sports, really. It just seems like going through the motions for the sake of going through the motions. Especially since that whole global pandemic thing is still a real problem.
But … at least the Lightning’s White House visit might feel relatively special.
As Sean Leahy’s post notes, this will be the Lightning’s first White House visit despite winning three Stanley Cups as a franchise. COVID disrupted a visit, while a lockout kept the Martin St. Louis/Vincent Lecavalier Lightning Stanley Cup team from their own trip to the White House.
This tradition seems a little tedious to maintain much longer, but at least this specific photo-op is kinda sorta special.
A big story for Saturday
Can Kings, Stars, Predators create room ahead of Golden Knights in West playoff race?
It was a quiet night in the West wild-card race during the Friday NHL games. Still, here’s a reminder of where things stand between the Kings, Predators, Stars, Golden Knights, and Canucks.
Kings, third in the Pacific: 94 points, three games left, 38 regulation/overtime wins
Predators, first wild card: 93 points, five games remaining, 41 ROW
Stars, second wild card: 91 points, four games remaining, 39 ROW
Golden Knights: 89 points, four games remaining, 38 ROW
Canucks: 87 points, four games remaining, 35 ROW
Truly, the Golden Knights themselves face long odds, so including the Canucks here feels a bit generous. Vegas’ ups and downs keep getting bumpier, even beyond their latest goalie headaches. For a while, the Kings represented the team the Golden Knights had the best chance to surpass in the West playoff races. Now, the slipping Stars may actually provide the most realistic path for Vegas (and perhaps Vancouver).
The Golden Knights are very much at the point of rooting for teams ahead of them to slip. With that in mind, they may almost feel “active” on Saturday.
The seemingly-too-distant Predators face a challenge in the Lightning.
Stars lack much in the way of excuses, as the Kraken are closing off a back-to-back set.
After beating the Ducks on Tuesday, the Kings hope to do so again on Saturday.
Also, the Canucks try to keep some hope alive by beating the formidable Flames.
On face value, it seems like the Kings and Stars could distance themselves from the Golden Knights (and Canucks?). We’ve seen some odd twists in these races lately, though, so we’ll see what actually happens.
Friday NHL scores
Wild 6, Kraken 3
Senators 2, Blue Jackets 1 (SO)
Oilers 6, Avalanche 3
Capitals 2, Coyotes 0
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.
NHL Rink Wrap: Hockey world mourns Guy Lafleur; Big nights from Fiala, Kane originally appeared on NBCSports.com